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Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Egypt’s small businesses are getting USD 2 mn-worth of loans + a slice of USD 10.1 mn-worth of grants from Google

Google is offering a total of USD 2 mn worth of loans (and a slice of USD 10 mn in grants) to help Egyptian small businesses. The tech giant has earmarked USD 2 mn to fund loans to small businesses in Egypt through its new “Grow Stronger with Google” program, which it launched yesterday, Country Manager for Egypt Hisham El Nazer said. The company expects up to 1 mn people to benefit from a combination of loans, grants and training initiatives it is launching — all of them, it says, geared to accelerate economic recovery across the MENA region by helping businesses and individuals acquire digital skills, develop their businesses, and go digital.

Google will be funneling the loans through US-based microfinance company Kiva, which will on-lend a total of USD 3 mn to thousands of businesses across the MENA region through the end of 2021.

About the loans: Each business or individual will be eligible for anywhere between USD 200 and USD 5k, depending on an assessment to best determine their needs, El Nazer told Enterprise. The loans will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and will not be limited to businesses of a certain size or in any specific industry. The program is, however, aimed to support businesses across a wide geographical base, he noted. The interest rate on the loans, which will carry a two-year tenor, has yet to be determined.

There’s also c.USD 10.1 mn-worth of grants up for grabs: Google has also pledged another USD 9 mn in ad credits and grants to businesses and government entities in the region through the program, El Nazer said. Some 800 businesses in Egypt will also get a combined USD 350k in grants that will be delivered through Misr El Kheir, while 20k entrepreneurs and job seekers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE’s tourism and travel industries are each getting a piece of another USD 350k grant package from Google.org. A third USD 350k grant package will be distributed to small businesses in the region that lack resources for consultations.

In Egypt, the Grow Stronger with Google program will focus largely on honing digital skills and providing cloud training to small business owners. Through the program, Google will provide digital marketing training to 100k students, artisans, and businesses in the country in partnership with the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, the Youth and Sports Ministry, and the Egyptian Tourism Federation. Another 70k developers — particularly women — will also get advanced training on digital skills such as flutter machine learning. Separately, Google will train 1k employees at the ministries of tourism and youth. These training programs are aimed at developing skill sets among job seekers and small business owners to best equip them with the tools they need to adapt to an increasingly digital job market, El Nazer said.

Aside from training, Google has launched its new Market Finder product, which helps businesses reach new markets and attract global customers.

The program “is our largest in the MENA region and our biggest financial commitment,” El Nazer said. Google has plans to announce a number of local partnerships and programs “for individuals and businesses in the coming months to help the domestic economy face the persistent challenges resulting from the pandemic,” he said.

The upside of the pandemic: A renewed focus on the importance of digital skills in the job market. The most in-demand jobs in Egypt have shifted over the past seven months towards software developers, project managers, IT managers, and digital marketing specialists, El Nazer said. This increased demand for a digitally-skilled workforce came in tandem with an uptick in overall reliance on technology in businesses, including for the shift to remote work amid nationwide lockdowns and to continue offering services remotely — such as telemedicine, he said.

The tech giant has separately been working to ensure it has strong privacy protections in place to protect users and enhance transparency, El Nazer said. “We are happy to have been consulted as part of the process of drafting the data privacy law in Egypt which allowed us to share international best practices.”

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